What I wish I knew as an NQT/ECT

What I wish I knew with Paul Sully

July 6, 2022

Paul Sully is an exceptional headteacher, who really understands learning and how to develop a school community so that everyone is focused on ensuring the children have the very best education it is possible to have. After his school's second successive Outstanding Ofsted judgement (even though the HMI called his school scruffy!), Paul really knows what makes a wonderful school and he shares his thoughts on this during the podcast. It's a fascinating listen.

In this podcast we discuss ...

  • Why 3 levels of differentiation fail some children, particularly the lower attainers, as it puts an adult imposed glass ceiling on children's progress.
  • The importance of convincing children that the sky's the limit.
  • How skilful feedback in the moment, based on highly accurate AfL, is a game changer.
  • Why children's success as learners raises self-esteem and makes the difference, much more than a self-esteem happy group session out of class. It's all about achievement.
  • The fact that children feel success in multiple ways - singing a song, saying a line in a school play, giving a presentation, making a model and so much more, so the school must prioritise these things.
  • Understanding that adults in school need to feel the same way too. We're just like children and need to taste success.
  • Planning for children to have regular opportunities to apply their learning and accepting they will fail at times. Don't be interested in children getting the right answer; the full focus must be on children getting better at things.
  • How becoming resilient is achieved by small steps of success after failing at something. It is the teacher's job to ensure children understand this.
  • Why there is great power in teachers watching each other teach, then coaching and mentoring to drive improvement.
  • The only thing that matters is passionately wanting every child to do as well as they possibly can. The rest is just wind! Every child gets one go at primary school and we have to do the very best we can to make it a success for each one of them.
  • Why no child must pass through the school unnoticed. It is the teacher's duty to find out what makes them excited to learn, so all children achieve the very best they can.
  • How fads can become commonplace but have no impact on a child's learning, such as the peculiar strategy of 'phone a friend' when a child doesn't know something.
  • Why SEND children must stay in the classroom and must work with the teacher, as s/he is the person who is best placed to skilfully adapt work in the moment so everyone achieves.
  • Having a relentless focus on clear learning, what exactly you want children to learn and having high expectations. The children will always amaze you.


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